What You Need to Know About Flours and Grains©

What You Need to Know About Flours and Grains©

There is a lot of discussion in today’s culture about the relative benefits or dangers of grain products in the diet. It can be very confusing not only to decide how much is safe to eat, but also what sort. Many people know very little about grains at all. Here are some basic facts to get started on the road to good decisions.

Grains are more commonly discussed as flours. Most people refer to white flour, wheat flour, or occasionally whole grain flour or refined flour in conversation, but what are these things? Almost all of the breads, pastries, cakes, muffins, cookies, mixes, and pastas in the United States are made from wheat flour. Many people mistakenly believe that white flour is not wheat flour, but actually, what we commonly call white or all-purpose flour is a refined wheat flour.

So what does “refined” mean? The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “refine” in this way: to reduce to a pure state; purify When applied to a food substance such as a grain of wheat, it takes on the connotation of eliminating all but one ingredient or constituent in that substance. This is in fact exactly what takes place in the refining of grains and sugars – many ingredients which might spoil are removed to create a “pure” and shelf-stable product.

The word “pure” sounds very wholesome on the surface to those who don’t realize that those elements being removed from the original grain are not impurities at all but essential nutrients. That which is now isolated and pure is the core part of the grain known as the starch which converts rapidly in the body to sugar, a significant problem for the diabetic.

Whole grain flour is flour made by grinding the whole grain without removing any of its parts. A grain of wheat has many layers, all of which contribute something different to the diet. The outer layers are the bran and the germ. These contain most of the B-vitamins and vitamin E present in the grain. When you use white flour (all-purpose flour) you aren’t getting these parts. Refining flour removes 99-100% of vitamin E, 50% of calcium, 80% of iron, 98% of magnesium, 50% of potassium, 65% of copper, 50% to 80% of all B-vitamins, and more.

In this country, many refined flours are “enriched” with a few vitamins in an attempt to replace the ones removed during the refining process. Unfortunately, while many nutrients are removed, only about 4 are returned to the flour, and these are manufactured from non-food materials such as coal tar. Another problem with white flour is how it got white. Since it naturally has color, the only way to achieve whiteness is to bleach the flour. Despite television commercials suggesting that the ingestion of bleach is a healthy alternative to germs, nothing could be further from the truth.

Chloride oxide, a common flour-bleaching agent will, when combined with the proteins present in the flour, produce alloxan – a poison which has been used to induce diabetes in laboratory animals. Additionally, chlorine will displace iodine from thyroid hormones causing thyroid imbalance and the threat of a lifetime of medication.

All grain products are high in starches. Refined starches convert almost instantly to sugars in the body, and while the conversion to sugar is slowed down by the complexity of the fiber in the whole grain, it’s still a threat to the diabetic. When the body has too much sugar in the bloodstream, the pancreas releases insulin which encourages the conversion of sugars to their storage form: triglycerides. Thus, overeating grain products leads to the accumulation of high fat levels in the bloodstream.

When your doctor tells you that your triglyceride levels are too high, the elimination of excessive grains and sugars is where you should focus your efforts lest your weight get out of control. This is also why those with diabetic tendencies need to severely restrict their intake of grains, sugars, and highly starchy vegetables such as potatoes, and limit themselves to very small servings of fruits.

The final word of warning about flours is that white flours, being void of natural nutrients and fats, don’t spoil. Whole grain flours, on the other hand, do. Freshness is a very important consideration when purchasing whole grain flours as real vitamins (especially the B and E groups) will deteriorate and healthy oils do become rancid rapidly once the grain is ground.

Buying a countertop grain grinder and making your own flours, breads, and pastas is not at all a waste of time or money if excellent health is your goal. The important factors are these: Whole grains really are much better for you than white, all-purpose, enriched, bleached flours. While whole grains can be part of a healthy diet, they are very concentrated sources of sugar and should be taken moderately in small servings. Whole grains release sugars more slowly than refined grains which offers some advantage in blood sugar control. Grain products must be fresh.

Nutritional Health Education Center • 141 N. 3rd Street, Suite 5 • Danville, KY 40422
www.awesomehealthmakeover.com 859-236-3234 Dr. J.L. Fortner ND, Director

What You Need to Know About Flours and Grains©